US Soccer: A Failure in Leadership and Tactical Prowess

Today, I am embarrassed to call myself a US soccer fan. For the first time since 1986, the United States will not be playing in the World Cup.

This wasn’t a failure of one particular player, although there were many players (notably Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Omar Gonzalez) who under performed, failing to raise their level of play to match the significance of the moment.

This was a lack of buy-in to Bruce Arena’s system. If you could even call it a system.

Effective leadership starts with setting a vision for the future. Mr. Arena? What was that vision? To just get to the World Cup with a kick and chase mentality? What was our style of play?

The lack of leadership and technical proficiency doomed the United States men’s national team.

Where was the aggressiveness? The willingness to attack the opponent? Where was the fire to own the opposition?

Were the 11 on the field really the best 11 this great country has to offer? Hindsight is always 20/20, but I wonder if this outcome would have been different if we had a coach who stressed technical discipline, organizational unity and aggression. But then again are we grooming players in this country who can take players on AND beat them 1 vs 1? Sadly, I think the answer is no.

Effective leadership means motivating and inspiring the team to greatness, putting team before individual stats or play? Why so many slow starts in game? Why did it seem we were always chasing the action in games where we really needed to get a result?

During Mr. Arena’s first run, the team seemed proud and determined to give it their all with the US jersey on their backs. During this qualifying cycle, a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, many players looked disinterested, rarely fighting for 50/50 balls, and exuding a selfish aura that it was their right to play for US Soccer.

Don’t we have any player (besides Pulisic)  who wants to attack (and beat) an opponent? Or are we that tactically and technically deficient? Bringing in just MLS players for the national team will never work. Those players just aren’t good enough.

Big changes must happen. The US should never NOT quality out of a region where these teams qualified: Mexico – you are a soccer mainstay.

Country Population
Costa Rica 4.85 million
Panama 4 million
Honduras (in a playoff for WC) 9 million
United States 323 million

I paused this morning when I saw my USA jersey hanging in my closet. I felt sick to my stomach, angry and frustrated by our mediocrity.

US Soccer: you have plenty of hard work ahead of you to groom better players. Make me believe we can compete again at the highest level – or at least in CONCACAF, the world’s easiest qualifying region.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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